Drinking two or more soft drinks a week increases the risk of developing pancreatic cancer by two-fold compared to people who do not drink soft drinks, says a report in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.
People who drink soft drinks on a regular basis tend to have poor behavior patterns overall, but the effects of soft drinks on pancreatic cancer may be unique, Mark Pereira, Ph.D., senior author of the study and associate professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota, said in a statement.
“The high levels of sugar in soft drinks may be increasing the level of insulin in the body, which we think contributes to pancreatic cancer cell growth,” said Pereira.
Pereira and colleagues followed 60,524 men and women in the Singapore Chinese Health Study for 14 years. During that time, there were 140 pancreatic cancer cases. Those who consumed two or more soft drinks per week (averaging five per week) had an 87 percent increased risk compared with individuals who did not.
The researchers found no link between fruit juice consumption and pancreatic cancer.
Pereira said that these results from Singapore probably apply to the United States.
“Singapore is a wealthy country with excellent health care. Favorite pastimes are eating and shopping, so the findings should apply to other western countries,” said Pereira.
According to the American Cancer Society, risk factors for pancreatic cancer include:
• Age. Nearly 90 percent of people with pancreatic cancer are older than 55, and the average age at the time of diagnosis is 72.
• Gender. Men are slightly more at risk.
• Race. More African-Americans develop pancreatic cancer than whites.
• Smoking. Smoking increases the risk as much as 300 percent.
• Chronic diseases. Diabetes, pancreatitis, and cirrhosis of the liver all raise risk.
• Obesity and physical activity. Obese people and couch potatoes have a higher risk.
• Family history. Pancreatic cancer seems to run in some families, perhaps due to inherited genes.
Each year, more than 42,000 Americans are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Fewer than 5 percent are alive five years after diagnosis, making it one of the deadliest forms of cancer.